Don’t fall for this ageless scam

February 28, 2021

By Kimi

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The Groovy 2000’s

I have been a web designer for a long time…  A LOOONG time.  It’s fun to think back 20 years to the designs of the day.  Black backgrounds, fluorescent text, and animated gifs fluttering or chugging all over a page.  Honestly, sometimes I feel as though we have just traded one form of cheesy animation for another with the current fad of animated text moving up, down, or zooming into view [rant], but I’ll save that for another post.  Over the years, technology, including web design, has evolved dramatically.  But there is one time-defying scam that just won’t go away.  Domain Registry of America. This company has somehow survived an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau and eventual expulsion, as well as several lawsuits filed with the Federal Trade Commission. Domain Registry of America is an ever present danger to this day, and every year, for 20 years, I receive multiple emails from clients who are confused when they receive “the letter”. 

Why am I susceptible?

Over the years, we have been trained to look out for phishing emails that try to trick you into revealing your login and passwords.  You’ve heard warnings on the news and from your bank and your credit card companies.  We have been told over and over not to click suspicious links.  But what happens when you receive a notice in your mailbox?  Especially a very official looking piece of mail. One that boldly highlights “Domain Renewal” and specifically mentions your domain name, mydomain.com. My experience has been that clients take the email seriously. Firstly, because it arrived in the mail, and secondly, because it appears to be very specific to their business. The letter has changed very little over the years, except for small tweaks that seem geared to broadly meet just enough regulations to continue their corrupt practice.

One of the main reasons this scam is so successful is that domain names are purchased on an annual basis, sometimes many years in advance.  So when an official looking letter arrives in the mail a year down the road, clients tend to take the letter at face value and don’t read the entire text.

The Scam

When you purchase a domain name, a lot of your personal information is entered into a public record, including your name, address, domain name and domain expiration date.  (Unless you also purchase privacy).  That information is easily accessed on the internet, plugged into an official looking letter, and delivered to your mailbox.

Based in Canada, Domain Registry of America goes by many names, some of which include: Domain Registry of America, Domain Registry, Internet Domain Name Services (IDNS), Brandon Gray Internet Services, Domain Renewal Group, Internet Corporation Listing Service, Liberty Names of America, Registration Services Inc., Yellow Business.ca, etc.

Here is a sample of one of their letters (domain names removed for privacy).  If you read through the letter you will see hints here and there that it is a solicitation (highlighted in yellow), but the letter is cleverly worded in order to dupe consumers into believing that are simply renewing their domain name. Many consumers just check off an amount and mail a check, and that is when the nightmare begins.

If you sign the form and include payment, you have given Domain Registry of America permission to transfer your domain name to them.  If they are successful, you will find yourself charged with a transfer fee, ever increasing renewal rates and no access to your domain settings.  You must go through their service to make any changes, which also accrue a fee.

Looking at the image with highlighted areas may lead you to think, “this is an obviously a solicitation“, but without the highlighting and the fact that most people “skim”, you can see why so many people fall for this scam.  I am thankful that most of my clients email me when they receive the letter and I can tell them to chuck it.  I just  wanted to put in print again, DON’T FALL FOR THIS SCAM!

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